Separation of church and state may be a fundamental requirement for a healthy democracy, but the elevation of Dr Sean Brady to Cardinal is a reminder that those institutions still must coexist in the real world.
The self-effacing archbishop said yesterday that he believed his promotion was, in part at least, Pope Benedict's way of expressing appreciation of what has been achieved in Northern Ireland. The Pope had referred to the continued success of the political process and saw it as an example and an inspiration for other beleaguered countries.
Religion and politics will always be a volatile mix, but some players on the Northern stage have been recent converts to that concept.
In particular, Ian Paisley's message of congratulation to Dr Brady yesterday was yet another expression of reconciliation and harmony.
It was not always so.
Last year the pair held a historic meeting at Stormont, which Dr Brady afterwards described as helpful and constructive.
On the eve of the St Andrews negotiations, which eventually bore fruit, Dr Brady, Dr Paisley and DUP officials discussed the benefits that would result from a devolved administration in Northern Ireland.
In doing so, Dr Brady earned himself a notable place in the peace process, one which had eluded his three formidable predecessors, Cardinals Cahal Daly, Tomas O Fiaich and William Conway, all of whom were at the receiving end of Dr Paisley's colourful invective.
May Sean Brady enjoy continued success with his good work.